If you’ve been to a musical or other “program” where there will be lots of Gospel music, you’ve seen more than a few people come up and sing a solo. When it’s good, it’s powerful and electric, and spirit-filled. It super-charges the whole audience. But sometimes a really good singer can have a not so good performance. And often it can leave not only the audience but the singer scratching his/her head wondering “what just happened there?” So in today’s blog I’d like to share 5 very simple tips that will make an already good soloist a better one; not by changing your singing, but by changing “experience”. You’ll see what I mean. Here we go!
1. Always have at least one song ready- more if possible
It may not be exactly “P.C” of me to say this, but it has always kinda bugged me a little when soloists- meaning people who are always being called on to sing a solo- don’t have a clue what to sing. So you go through this whole awkward thing where you have to watch them fidget around and go whisper to the musician for what seems like way too long. And everybody’s waiting and nobody really knows what to do, and the moment is kinda dragging on, and the soloist looks completely caught off-guard. It’s just awkward all around!
If you’ve ever sang a solo at your church, you might as well assume that you’ll be asked to do so again, at any time. So a good thing to do is just always have a song ready in case you’re called. If you’re smart you’ll have more than one, because at a musical someone could very well sing the song you planned on doing. Seems really obvious, I know. But it wouldn’t be on the list if I didn’t see it happen all the time. So if I may state the obvious once again, a soloist should always have a solo ready- even if you’re not scheduled to be on program.
2. Know what key you do your favorite song(s) in.
Nothing feels better than when you can walk up and tell the musician what you’re singing and what key to put you in. First of all it makes that conversation over there at the organ much shorter- which means it’s much less awkward for everybody. You walk up, tell the organist the song and the key and go on over there and do your thing. NICE! Now, if you’re intimidated at the thought of learning keys, there’s no need to be. First of all you can learn your keys on the piano in 7 minutes. But an even easier thing to do is simply ask the musician. The next time you sing a solo and you like how it feels for you right there, simply lean over and ask the musician what key that is. Make a note of it and every time you sing that song you’ll know exactly what key to tell the musician to play it in.
Have you ever seen or experienced that embarrassing thing where the soloist starts singing then halfway through the song he suddenly realizes he started way too high? I don’t know which is worse, when they keep going or when they stop and start over. But both are completely avoidable by just knowing what key you sing your most popular songs in.
3. Choose a well-known song for your solo
Yes, I know you listen to all kinds of Christian and inspirational music, not just Gospel. And that’s great! But it’s important to know the audience you’re singing for and what they’re most likely to be familiar with. This is not nearly as important for the audience’s sake as it is for the musician’s sake. If, for example, you’re singing at an African-American church and you decide you’ll take that beautiful Contemporary Christian song you heard on the other station the other day and sing it as a solo, there’s a good chance the musician will have never heard the song. Which means both of you will struggle and stumble through the entire performance.
You singing mostly a cappella and the musician desperately trying to follow you but using chord progressions that don’t really follow the original because he’s never heard it. So now you’re thrown off because what he’s playing doesn’t sound like what you’re used to. And he’s thrown off because he’s flying blind trying to accompany you on a song he’s never heard. The whole thing is just “uncomfortable” for everybody. Choosing well-known songs for your solo will insure a smooth, seamless experience for everyone.
4. Testify, don’t apologize!
Here’s another thing that always kinda irks me a little. That is when a soloist comes up and spends two minutes talking about how completely unprepared they are to sing, and how they’re gonna “attempt” to “try” to “take a stab at” (insert song title here). And then almost every time they’ll quote the scripture that says “be ye also ready” as proof that they know they should but still aren’t, lol! God gets no glory from that, singers. What the audience wants and needs a soloist to do when they come to that microphone is give them something that connects you-and will connect them- to what you’re about to sing about. What does this song mean to you? Why do you love to sing it? Why or how does it minister to you? What’s the message you want to impart to them in the song? Stop coming down front and apologizing for how “not ready” you are. And stop saying you’re gonna “try” and “attempt”. Go up there, give your testimony and then sing to the glory and honor of God.
5. Don’t over-sing!
I realize that things like this are very subjective. One person’s opinion of over-singing may not be someone else’s. But here’s one thing that almost everyone sees universally. TIME. A solo shouldn’t last 10 minutes, gang. After you’ve gone back to that bridge for the 4th time, I think you’ve made your point. It is far better to leave the audience wanting more than wishing you’d end it already. So we kinda walked through a typical “not so good” soloist performance under item number 1. It was awkward, uncomfortable for the audience and took way too long to get started. Let’s now compare that to a typical soloist performance using these 5 changes.
The MC calls your name to come up for a solo. On your way to the front you stop by the organ and whisper the name of your song and the key you like to do it in. Takes about 5 seconds. You walk up to the microphone, give honor and greetings where appropriate and begin a brief testimony or words about the song. You give the nod for the musician, who is already doing soft music in the exact key you need him to be in because you told him. You sing your song and the Holy Spirit moves mightily. You go sit down. :O)